News 05 Apr 17

Serbian Journalist’s Alleged Killer ‘Nearly Arrested in 2001’

At the trial for the murder of opposition journalist Slavko Curuvija, a former Serbian state security official testified that he was told in 2001 to arrest one of the defendants for the killing.

BIRN
Belgrade
Slavko Curuvija. Photo: Slavko Curuvija Foundation

Zoran Stijovic, a former Serbian state security official, told Belgrade Special Court on Wednesday that he was ordered in July 2001 to arrest defendant Milan Radonjic and to charge him “as the organiser of the murder” of journalist Slavko Curuvija.

Radonjic, who is also a former state security officer, is one of four men on trial for Curuvija’s murder on April 11, 1999.

He was allegedly gunned down outside his apartment in Belgrade because of his opposition to the regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

Stijovic said he sent officers to track down Radonjic but was told it was not possible to arrest him.

Radonjic then reported to the secret service of his own free will, but when he was transferred to the court, he was actually charged with involvement in the attempted murder in 1999 of the leader of the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement, Vuk Draskovic.

He was eventually acquitted of the attempted murder of Draskovic in October 2016.

Stijovic also told the court that the records that the service kept about Curuvija were partially destroyed in 2000.

“It was very easy to see that the file had been ‘cleaned up’,” Stijovic said.

Records covering specific periods of time were missing from the file, he added.

His testimony is in line with what some previous witnesses have claimed during the Curivija murder trial.

In January last year, Ratko Ljubojevic, a former member of a state security surveillance team, told the court that the order to destroy the reports that he and his unit compiled on Curuvija came on October 5, 2000 - the day that Slobodan Milosevic was ousted in an uprising.

According to the indictment, an ‘unknown person’ ordered the killing of Curuvija and Radomir Markovic, the former head of Serbian State Security, abetted the crime, while three former security service officers - Ratko Romic, Milan Radonjic and Miroslav Kurak - took part in the organisation and execution of the murder.

Kurak was the direct perpetrator, while Romic was his accomplice, it is alleged.

Three of the suspects have pleaded not guilty, while Kurak is on the run and is being tried in absentia.

Markovic is currently serving a 40-year sentence for the murder of former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic and other crimes, while Romic was acquitted alongside Radonjic in September last year of the attempted murder of opposition party leader Draskovic.

Dusan Mihajlovic, who served as Serbian interior minister from 2000 to 2004, told the court on Wednesday that he had received information that the secret service was the organiser of the murder Curuvija.

Mihajlovic said he received the information from the former chief of the service, Goran Petrovic, who was in charge from January to November 2001, and Sreten Lukic, a former police general.

However, Mihajlovic said that he does not remember what happened very well and that does not consider himself a reliable witness.

On Tuesday, Mihajlovic testified that Curuvija’s wife Branka Prpa told him the identity of the shooter - an interior ministry Special Operations Unit member called Luka Pejovic.

Pejovic was also shot dead in December 2000.

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